Laid-off Campbell does job for Tigers

Towson: Away from the game 18 months, Kyle Campbell used rusty mettle and 50 goals to help a 3-10 team in 2000 scrape its way to the final four.

College Lacrosse

Ncaa Lacrosse Final Four

May 23, 2001|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

He has scored more goals in a season than any other men's lacrosse player in Towson University history, yet Kyle Campbell detects rust in his game.

Some days, he still feels out of shape after running in practice. He often is not satisfied with his left-handed shot. Campbell figures by next spring, his game will be complete again.

For now, the sophomore attackman from Ellicott City will have to settle for being a devastating work in progress.

Towson can point to many reasons why it has emerged from years of mediocrity to stun the lacrosse world by making the final four for only the second time in its 22-year Division I history.

Coach Tony Seaman has stocked the roster with superb athletes over the past two years. Senior faceoff man Justin Berry has fought knee and hamstring injuries while becoming possibly tops at his position. Senior goalie John Horrigan is playing the best ball of his life at the perfect time.

But when you talk of Towson, which must beat Princeton on Saturday for a shot at its first Division I title on Monday, you start with a fast-break offense that has pushed the Tigers to their best record since they won the Division II crown in 1974.

And the talk on offense starts with Campbell, who has overcome academic problems and an 18-month layoff from the game to return as one of its premier scorers.

Campbell put another exclamation point on his comeback in Sunday's NCAA tournament quarterfinals. With 27 seconds left against Maryland, he scored the game-winning goal to lift Towson to a 12-11 victory, the Tigers' first over the Terps in seven years. No one in school history had scored 50 goals in a season before Campbell ended Maryland's season.

"He has the sense of where to be and when to be there," Seaman said of Campbell. "If he doesn't score, it's because the goalie makes a good save. Kyle rarely misses the cage. He makes us a really good transition team, because he's such a good finisher. We had two-thirds of a great attack before he got here. We thought he could be a deciding factor for us."

The Tigers average 13.4 goals a game, with five different players producing at least 20 points. They might be the most dangerous transition team left in the NCAA tournament, largely because Campbell rarely misses his target. He easily leads the team in goals by being deadly from short range. Campbell is making 48 percent of his shots.

Skills not all back

"You've got to look at how many goals are assisted. Most of mine are. And most of them have been with the right hand," said Campbell, who sings his praises as quietly as he slips defenders around the crease.

"I'm not in the kind of shape to be an effective dodger. I'm a fan of moving the ball. I'm happy to be the guy setting the pick for the guy who scores, as long as we win. I know my limits. My skills weren't gone when I came back, and they're not back completely. They're getting there."

Campbell took a rough path en route to Towson. First, he had to endure the pain of academic failure at Loyola College after a stellar high school run at Mount Hebron, where he recorded 150 goals and 110 assists and became one of the most prized recruits in the country.

He had to leave Loyola after his freshman season in 1999 and walk away from his favorite game, while starting over in the classroom at Howard Community College. While earning his associate degree there, Campbell was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, which explained the acute problems he had managing his time and focusing on assignments.

"It was really tough leaving Loyola. I felt like I had let my teammates down. It hurt to look at them," said Campbell, who would play no organized lacrosse for 18 months. He even passed up a chance to play in the World Games with the U.S. under-19 team in Australia two summers ago, while trying to maintain his eligibility at Loyola.

While working through his final semester at Howard CC last fall, Campbell, planning his lacrosse comeback, took a liking to Towson. Seaman had recruited him during his final year of coaching at Johns Hopkins, and Campbell had a number of friends at Towson, including Hebron alums like defenseman Mike Machiran. Watching the young, athletic Tigers during their 2000 fall season convinced Campbell of his next move.

"They were fun to watch. They had guys making big plays, and there was a different attitude out there," said Campbell, well aware that Towson had experienced four consecutive losing seasons, including a 3-10 dud last year. "I remember thinking this team could be so good. They might be missing one ingredient."

Campbell, 6 feet 2, 205 pounds, had plenty of catching up to do. He recalls fading badly during the second half of preseason practices, when running for an extended period was a major chore.

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